Reclaiming Their Names : Conversations with My Ansisters
Braunschneider, Theresa S.
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In her essay "Looking for Zora," Alice Walker details her search for the grave and some of the life history of anthropologist and writer Zora Neale Hurston. Walker portrays her search as the pursuit of an ancestor – both because Hurston, as a powerful, important writer, is Walker's literary fore mother and because, as Walker writes, "as far as I'm concerned, she is my aunt - and that of all black people as well." As I've become increasingly familiar with African-American literary traditions, I've become more interested in this frequent emphasis on personal history and membership in a community, particularly because it is so foreign to my own cultural experience. As a white woman, I've never been taught to view myself as part of a familial line. Until I became familiar with more literary works by Black women, I never recognized how little my white, male dominated cultural experience emphasized personal history and ancestry, how little respect it taught me for storytelling or oral traditions, how little encouragement I received to establish any sort of dialogue with my familial past. And so this project represents my attempts to establish those connections. Since no one told me the stories of the people from whom I've descended, I've sought out those stories and storytellers, acting out of a newly found responsibility to keep my ancestors alive by remembering the tales of their lives - particularly those ancestors who are in greatest danger of being forgotten, the women. I want to build a monument to these women in my past; and stories - whether they correspond with everyone's memory or not - are the best building material I can imagine. This project, then, is dedicated to every woman who has gone before me whom I might call a family member - remembered or forgotten, real or imagined. May I do you justice in my attempts to rebuild your stories.